Welcome to the second instalment of monthly Photographer Q and A. My second photographer is Street Photographer: Alf Myers Photography.
- How did you get into photography?
That’s a rather simple one to answer – it was holidays. Many, many, moons ago I went on holiday to the Greek island of Corfu. It was in the days of film and I had a little point and shoot camera with me. Nothing amazing, but I took one image from the two weeks that caught my attention and I wanted to make more.
It was the inside of a little Greek church and the colours of the print when they came back just blew me away. It took me back to that moment. I have to say that it was the only decent image. That frustrated me so I looked for ways to get better images but in a foolish way – better equipment. It didn’t work!
Don’t buy equipment and think you’ll get better. You won’t. It is a false economy!
- What kind of gear do you use?
That depends. I mostly do street photography so I like to keep it simple. My current set-up is a Sony Alpha 7mkIII with a Samyang 35mm f2.8 lens. That’s it.
If I’m doing something else, like an event or wedding, then I double it up with my old Canon 5d Mk III with a 24-70mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8. I have a converter so can use the Canon glass on the Sony body and it works rather well.
- What is your favourite lens? Why?
It really depends on the job, but for a long time it has been my Canon 24-70mm F2.4 L series, it is just a sweet lens which I used for about 80% of my shots.
However, since moving onto the Sony a7 Mk III, I’ve switched to a 35mm prime – the Samyang 35mm f2.8. I love a faster lens to reduce the depth of field and for capturing more light which helps at night and in low light situations. The Samyang doesn’t have this but it has a small profile and weighs very little. The whole setup is very easy to carry for the whole day. Not like the Canon 5D Mk III and the 24-70mm which is what I used to use on the streets.
- So you’re a street photographer? How did that subject peak your interest?
I guess you could say that I’m more known for my street photography than anything else. For the most part I like people photography, but for street, well I’ve always been a bit of a people watcher and I like exploring different cities. Both of those and a camera, lead naturally to street.
I hope each image I make triggers the viewer to build their own stories in their heads. That’s what I like. That’s what makes a good image.
- What settings do you typically use for your street photography?
It all depends on the available light and subject but generally I’m hovering f8 at 1/500+ shutter speed. That will mean a relatively high ISO for most of the time in the UK.
That way you get a good depth of field and reduce the chance for camera shake, although you have to adjust for the light and for your intended image.
- Are there certain shots you like to get when doing street photography? Or do you just go with the flow?
For me street photography is all about going with the flow and adapting to what you see/find as you wander. That said, you’ll find each street photographer’s images will have reoccurring subjects, styles and approaches that they subconsciously gravitate toward when they’re out on the streets. Whilst I don’t specifically go to shoot a picture of x or y, certain situations will inevitability draw my attention more than others.
I do tend to follow given ‘routes’ which I like to explore at different times of day and year. You notice how things change yet at the same time stay the same.
- How do you usually post process your work?
Again, it will depend on the image in question. What is it saying? What mood does it portray? Have I taken it with mono in mind or is it a celebration of colour?
However, I will generally start in Adobe Lightroom. I’ll import the images from the camera with a base setting that will look to apply some meta data, camera/lens correction and a few settings that I’ve come to regularly apply.
From there I’ll confirm if I’m going monochrome which is mostly how I see and shoot, but from time to time the colour pixie will have whispered in my ear and colour it must be.
In Adobe Lightroom, I’ll apply all the global processing such as cropping, correcting wonky horizons and verticals, exposure and tones. Then, it depends on the subject…
If it is a street image, I’ll stay in Lightroom to dodge and burn etc., to help draw your eye.
If it is a portrait or something creative, or for a club comp then I’ll go into Photoshop where all bets are off. There will be lots of layers.
- What makes a good photograph in your eyes?
One that triggers an emotion in the it’s viewers. It doesn’t need to be technically perfect, in fact the more perfect the less an image tends to trigger an emotion.
- Are there any other styles of photography you enjoy?
Mostly anything to do with people. I regularly support as a second shooter at weddings and do various events, ‘Born Survivor’ being an example. Getting involved in the action is key here. Street photography really helps with these, it opens one’s eye to the potential of a scene and enhances your skill of a quick reaction when you need it.
I also like doing studio-based work, especially head shots.
I love viewing nature and landscapes but find the process of making them isn’t for me. I really want to get up to explore and experience the moment.
- Tell us the story behind your favourite picture.
I suspect I haven’t taken it yet.
That said, of the images I have taken, in the too many years to mention there are a few that jump out and that I have on my wall in my office
One image that I keep returning to is ‘Journey Home.’ I wouldn’t call it a happy image but it has lots of feeling in and I love the lighting. The expression on the man’s face crossing the road, and the crowd in the back waiting for the green man before they cross – it could almost be from the Walking Dead.
The location is London, Euston Road just outside of the station with Prezzo behind us. We were heading back to our hotel after a long day exploring London.
Here is the picture in question:
- Have you done any cool projects recently that you’d like to discuss?
Currently we’re in a strange place, what with being socially isolated as a result of COVID-19, so a lot of my plans are on hold. However, at the start of the year, I joined a group of other photographers on Twitter in a project, the aim being to share a new image everyday for a year. Look up #365aroundthesun and you’ll see how we’re doing.
I was hoping it would be a new image I’d taken on the day, but it has turned into just new images that I haven’t shared before. Although I suspect one or two may have got past that filter too.
- When you go travelling what do you take with you and why?
It used to be a lot! But now, I generally take my Sony A7 Mk III with the 35mm Samyang lens, plus a 50mm too. Alongside that I have a little Fujifilm x70 which sits nicely in my pocket.
All of this is carried in a ThinkTank Retrospective 7 v2.0 Why? Well, unless I know I’m going to a specific location and I’d be after certain shots that require something a little more specific, I like to keep the weight down and for the most part this setup covers everything I like to do. There are occasions when I regret not taking a longer lens but they are rare.
One thing you learn quickly is how to make a bag look light when checking in at the airport.
- Is there any photographers work that has influenced and inspired you? If so who?
There are indeed, but some of my biggest influences are film and art galleries, just observing the visual, composition and ideas. I absorb them and in some cases their influence inadvertently rubs off.
Photographers relating to street specifically –
- Do you shoot both digital and film?
I have shot both but these days I’m exclusively digital.
However, I do look back with fondness to the days when I used to develop and print my own monochrome images. Maybe I’ll try again at some point.
- Where do you expand your photographic knowledge?
There are lots of ways, including reading around the topic. I’m currently reading Bystander by Joel Meyerowitz and Colin Westerbeck which is giving me an interesting and in-depth history of street photography. It is however a heavy read in many ways.
There are courses and lectures which can educate and inspire. Matt Hart’s, “Learning to See” workshop was a real turning point for me.
Then you have YouTube – which has something on just about everything. I can recommend popping by Sean Tucker’s channel.
However, you can’t beat trying and failing – it is said that it is by failing that we learn. So shoot, look, and shoot some more. Or practice, practice, practice.
And finally – helping others. You learn so much by helping others with their photography.
For more of Alf’s work visit his website at Alf Myers Photography. You can also see Alf’s work on Instagram @alfmyersmono and twitter @alfmyers.
I hope you enjoyed something a little different showcasing and discussing the work of Alf Myers Photography: Street Photographer. Stay Tuned for the next installment.